DEG Welcomes FPT Software as a Member | Meet Ira Dworkin, Managing Director – Communications, Media & Entertainment

DEG Welcomes FPT Software as a Member | Meet Ira Dworkin, Managing Director – Communications, Media & Entertainment

April 5, 2024 | DEG welcomes FPT Software as a new member. FPT Software, a subsidiary of FPT Corp., is a global technology and IT services provider headquartered in Vietnam, with $1 billion in revenue (2023) and over 30,000 employees in 30 countries.  With more than 20 years of wide-ranging media, entertainment, and telecom engagements, FPT partners with customers to drive solutions across the media supply chain. It offers software development and support services for content and metadata management to subscriber management, mobile and connected TV apps, and more.  With extensive experience designing and creating large language models, Generative AI, and natural language processing, the company can help media companies use AI to drive improved margins and increased revenue.

DEG recently caught up with Ira Dworkin, Managing Director – Communications, Media, & Entertainment for FPT Software, to discuss the evolving entertainment landscape and the role artificial intelligence technologies will increasingly play in the management, delivery, marketing, discovery and enjoyment of content.

DEG: FPT Software may not be a well-known brand name in the U.S., please give the Membership your elevator pitch on the company.

ID: While we’ve flown under the radar, FPT has been around for over 30 years, and counts over 80 Fortune 500 companies as happy customers. We provide technology consulting, digital transformation, and bespoke software development services for our customers.  We have extensive domain expertise in media and entertainment – with customers that include some of the most recognizable direct-to-consumer services as well as key technology providers to the industry. Our engagements have spanned the entire media supply chain – from content/metadata ingest, to asset management systems, to app development on proprietary embedded devices and the major streaming platforms. Areas have included transcoding, cloud migrations, metadata management, recommendation systems, data analytics, and building AI and machine learning models.

We can take on system design and architecture, software development, testing/test automation, as well as support/managed services. As a former CTO, I love digging into customer’s challenges and brainstorming on solutions – and I am constantly impressed by the sheer breadth and depth of experience that we have within FPT. I appreciate the opportunity to “get the word out” and look forward to sharing more one-on-one with the DEG membership.

DEG: How is the way consumers experience entertainment in the home going to be different two to three years from now?

ID: In short – AI-driven services, additional segmentation of pricing tiers (with more ad-supported offerings), and more bundled offerings.

Diving into a little more detail – we’ve seen the entertainment experience move from the bundle to more individual apps, the emergence of FAST (which is largely a re-platforming of the linear TV channels of the past, albeit with greater niche programming), and the re-emergence of the bundle (with a slightly different spin).

One thing that hasn’t changed much is the ability for consumers to find something of interest. There have been recommendation systems and the like over the years – but I believe that the emergence of generative AI will be a game changer not just for how content is created, prepared, and delivered, but for how it will be consumed. Over the next few years, I believe we’ll see improvements in interfaces that finally make it easy to find programming that’s truly of interest to the user.

Additionally, as many of the services have turned from subscriber acquisition at any cost to trying to turn a profit, these services are going to have to find ways to fight churn and explore additional ways to generate revenue.

Regarding churn, those that are more effective at always surfacing interesting content will keep viewers longer – but this likely won’t be enough. In terms of additional revenue generation, we’ll continue to see more services introducing advertising in no- or lower-cost tiers, while also raising pricing and adding features in higher-priced tiers.

And then there’s “the bundle”. Everyone hated that the pay TV operators “forced” people to take channels they weren’t interested in to get the ones that they were interested in. The bundle finally was broken up, most everything moved to streaming, and now people are starting to realize that having everything under one roof wasn’t so bad in terms of being able to find things, and bundles are now re-emerging – but are different. It’s not the pay TV operators, it’s the streamers – through mechanisms like Amazon Channels or the addition of sports programming to keep and retain customers.

DEG: What innovations or new technologies in the digital supply chain will most influence this change?

ID:  I believe that the biggest impact will come from AI technologies (both Gen AI/large language models and machine learning applications). Companies have already started leveraging AI to help with translations and subtitling, but there’s promise in enabling creation of a much richer set of metadata that can be used to drive consumer experiences, aid better ad targeting, improve customer support and marketing activities, and help to uncover new insights that may have previously remained hidden across multiple independent data silos.

DEG: What consumer-facing technologies will have the biggest impact on changing experience?

ID: The amount of choice that consumers have for how and where to consume entertainment has exploded over the last decade, as have the types of content – and the landscape continues to evolve, both in terms of underlying enabling technologies, as well as platforms. Both are having an impact on the overall consumer experience.

Looking ahead, touching on a few areas, I think augmented, mixed and virtual reality technologies, as well as highly personalized video, will significantly impact consumer experiences and expectations. For example, watching a movie through a headset in 4K with high-resolution spatial audio can be a truly immersive experience. In terms of personalization, customized video views have been talked about for years, but we’re finally approaching the point where it can be a reality. Imagine having access to these highly personalized experiences at home – it would be like you’re controlling the cameraman at a sporting event — and being able to follow your favorite player in a sports game, or replay key plays from different perspectives, or getting customized stats promise to enhance the overall experience. This in turn will make for increased loyalty from customers.

DEG: What sits on your desk that keeps you up at night?

ID: I don’t know that there’s anything that’s physically sitting on my desk that causes concern – but there are several downsides to some of these new frontiers that the industry is pushing. Let’s just look at two of the areas mentioned earlier – AI and personalization.

AI is trained on models built by humans – if we’re not careful in ensuring balanced training data, unintended bias can be introduced in these models (for example, always portraying certain groups as terrorists), or building models that can later be used for much more nefarious means than intended (eg., censorship, or promoting specific political points of view).

Hyper-personalization is driven by AI models and requires analysis of very large amounts of data. As we continue to let the large corporations (media conglomerates included) collect every bit of data about what we consume, where we consume it, and how we got to it, if it’s not collected with the proper safeguards and protocols, there can be significant consequences (identify theft, fraud, and more – some of which we’ve already seen).

DEG: What is your favorite way to relax with media at home?

ID: I’m a big sci-fi and fantasy fan – so will generally watch anything on the various services that looks remotely interesting. Fortunately, there’s an ongoing supply of new content in this area. Additionally, I’m a big baseball fan, so I’m looking forward to the start of the season and immersing myself in Dodger games. I watch many of the games – so baseball season has the side effect of causing me to fall behind on other streaming content (there are only so many hours in the day!).


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